Fines for motoring contraventions on London’s ‘red routes’ are set to rise this month, says the organisation in charge of the capital’s main roads. Transport for London (TfL) says the increased penalties will be an “effective deterrent” that will lead to “increased compliance” and cut congestion.

London’s red routes are managed by TfL and are designed to allow traffic to move freely along some of the busiest roads in the capital. Stopping is generally prohibited on these roads, outside of designated locations and times clearly marked by signs. With these routes making up just five percent of London’s roads but carrying 30 percent of the city’s traffic, TfL says contraventions create safety risks and congestion.

Since 2011, misdemeanours on these routes have led to penalty charge notices (PCNs), which fine drivers up to £130. From January 17, however, TfL is going to increase that to £160 – an increase it claims is in line with inflation. The increase will also bring red route PCNs in line with Congestion Charge and Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges, which both stand at £160. However, for those who pay within 14 days of a PCN being issued, the fine will be reduced by 50 percent, while those who take longer than 28 days to pay will be charged an extra 50 percent.

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TfL is adamant that the increased charge is a deterrent, rather than a money-making scheme, claiming it has seen PCN numbers increase by more than a quarter between 2016 and 2019. The organisation says the increased PCN should “deter contraventions” and “support” TfL’s plans to improve road safety and improve public transport.

“We are committed to keeping London moving safely and efficiently, and compliance on the Transport for London Road Network is essential in achieving those aims,” said Siwan Hayward, TfL's director of compliance, policing, operations and security. “Non-compliance impacts London's air quality, creates safety risks, disrupts traffic and creates congestion for everyone. Increasing the penalty charge for contraventions on our road network in line with inflation will provide a more effective deterrent to drivers and improve the safety and reliability of the network.”

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But the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said the “eye-watering” fine took PCN levels close to the fine for using a handheld mobile phone while driving. He also said the new fines, combined with an increase in the Congestion Charge price and expansion of the ULEZ, could make motoring in London very costly.

“While most drivers accept the need for enforcement to make roads safer and less congested, this increase in the level of fine is pretty eye-watering and not far off the fine for a serious motoring offence such as illegally using a handheld mobile phone,” he said. “This change also comes after a recent permanent hike in the Congestion Charge and the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone which means driving in and around central London could well become even more expensive for some of the capital’s beleaguered drivers.”